As a huge fan of bands like KISS, I’m no stranger to huge concerts that require a massive production to pull off. Sometimes, though, it’s refreshing to experience rock & roll, rhythm & blues in its rawest form in a sweaty concert hall where the onstage talent is truly working (and truly sweating!) to gain their still growing fanbase.
I’ve been on the Dorothy hype train since I first saw her music video for “After Midnight” (that’s still my favorite song of hers) several years ago and watching their performance on the tiny Jagermeister stage at Rock on The Range back in 2015. I have a mad respect for true, old school rock bands that grind to earn their way to the top. I saw that from this band the first time I saw them. I saw them a second time at the same festival on a bigger stage in 2017. There ascension had kind of been slow to that point, and they had every excuse to phone it in for that gig. They played early, on a chilly and rainy day; hardly ideal conditions to be excited to play to a hungover festival crowd. They absolutely brought it though and won me over again with a haunting rendition of “I Put A Spell On You” that was one of the highlights of the festival. I’m absolutely convinced that if/when that event returns to Columbus post-COVID, that this band will be gracing the main stage whenever they make their third appearance. So, that’s the backstory for my fandom with this band.
The LA based group returned to Columbus last night with a pair of hard rocking up and coming bands to a venue that I had not previously been to. The Bluestone turned out to be a perfect setting for the rock revival that took place last night. The concert hall is actually in an old cathedral and provided both amazing acoustics and an atmosphere that was just right for the evenings event. Afterall, Dorothy’s new record is inspired by a revival of their own sorts; both literally and spiritually.
All three bands were on fire. Outstanding musicianship was on full display and all three bands feature they type of virtuoso front man/woman that gives me hope for the future of the genre. These vocalists have the type of stage presence that demands the crowd’s attention. Both opening acts’ lead vocalists feature fellas with soaring vocals reminiscent of the heavyweights of the 70’s and 80’s; and Ms. Dorothy Martin’s vocal talent is as good as any live performer I’ve ever seen. It’s cliche these days to claim that “Rock is dead.” I would counter that with real rock & roll is alive and well if you know where to look.
The evening started with a quintet from California (minus one from Texas) called Classless Act. I wasn’t familiar with them before last night but they absolutely will not be a “warm up” band for long. They give me so much hope for what can be with hard rock. With a sound and performance that reminded me of what I imagine it must have been like to see bands like Guns N’ Roses before they became a radio band, they quickly won over the crowd during their abbreviated set. They even played a blistering cover of GNR’s “Civil War” that really brought the crowd to a frenzy. My fourteen year old daughter and I were towards the back of the concert hall, near the merch booth, and it was cool to see these guys mingle and sign autographs and take pictures with fans for the rest of the evening; when they weren’t going out into the pit and enjoying the other two bands that is. I’ll definitely be pulling for these guys moving forward and their debut album will be coming out on June 24th. If you weren’t able to catch them this time around, they’ll be back in Ohio for two stops as opening support for Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts on their summer Stadium Tour.
The next act is one that I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. Orange County, California’s Joyous Wolf have long eluded me. I had arrangements to see them and review them at Rock on the Range one year and for reasons that I don’t remember, I missed their set. In all honesty, my group was probably having breakfast beers in the parking lot, and I may have forgot. My bad. Subsequently on their visits to Columbus I haven’t been able to get there. This quartet took the energy up even another level, led by the stage command of lead vocalist Nick Reese. My introduction to this group was when I was reading up on the bands that I wasn’t familiar with coming to that festival and I was immediately drawn to their bluesy rock sound and the antics of Reese. They lived up to the hype last night with a wall of sound and their front man doing flips on stage, diving into the crowd, and even doing the splits. Compared to their early live videos of six or seven years ago, we’re witnessing a band that is now really coming into their own as seasoned vets in the world of rock & roll with multiple records under their belts. Highlights from the set were “Fearless” and a mandatory crowd participatory version of “Mother Rebel“. They also could be graciously seen for autographs and photo ops at the merch booth after their set and well after the evening’s event concluded.
After a short while, the evening’s headlining act took the stage. I’ve long considered the Dorothy band to be the best kept secret in modern rock music as they’ve stayed largely underground to the “mainstream” rock & roll powers that be. Whatever that means and for whatever that’s worth. That best kept secret, however, is making its way out as the band continues to put out high quality jams and at this point are refusing to be ignored. Their current album, just released last week (I picked up my vinyl copy at the show last night), has them on the verge of exploding. Titled “Gifts From the Holy Ghost“, the record had been gaining steam before it’s release with the lead single “Rest In Peace“. The album, the group’s third, was featured less than I imagined it would be in the setlist from the night, but the songs that were played were very well received.
The motivations for this album have been well documented, and the songs have shown a maturity that only life experiences can create. She and her band are in a different place than they were on past records lyrically but continue to excel at their craft musically as a raw, bluesy hard rock band. While her stage presence and vocal talent demand the most attention; Martin also shows off the talented musicians in the group with numerous extended jams and a terrific drum solo towards the end of the set. I’ve long thought that they should be the next big thing, and now I believe that time has arrived. While her debut album may have been titled “RockIsDead” they’re certainly too good and at the forefront of a modern rock revival for that to be true.